1 Cool Thing: Amazon Echo Buttons

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“And welcome to one cool thing pc meg s daily show where we talk to to you about one cool thing that we have been testing out here in pc. And today. We actually have two identical cool things that are the amazon echo buttons. I m tom brandt.

This is sascha segan and we would like to show you show off these amazon echo buttons to you and you can tell us what you d like us use them for by typing your comments into facebook and social pete will read them out to us or if you happen to be watching later on youtube definitely come back tomorrow and interact with us on facebook for yet another one cool thing so sasha what have we got here so these are the amazon echo. Buttons they are 1999 for a pack of two you can buy two packs and have four. And that s the maximum number you can have and the idea is that they are bluetooth tethered to your echo speaker. Your amazon branded echo speaker and they turn it into a party game or a set of party games there right now.

14 skills. 12 of which are actually games two of which are lame demos so twelve games that you can play using the echo buttons with between one and four players and i wanted to i want to show off a few of them today. Well let s do that so these come in packs of two right. Yes.

So and you can buy up to two packs. Exactly exactly you can you can pair up to four buttons with each echo device now they run on two triple a batteries. The batteries are included you put them in at the beginning. You pair the buttons using voice commands from your echo and you can see the button pairings in your alexa app on your smartphone do you need that app to pair them yes you always need an alexa app.

Okay to set up your alexa okay. Unless. I guess you don t with the screened alexa s like the spot mantilla and the show. But you will you will generally need the app.

So yes so it looks like i mean on the buttons are a superfund id. Sure and cheap too 19. 1999 for yes. But the reason.

I didn t give it a very good review and we might run into this in the demo is that the skills are really buggy. Oh and so i kept on running into. I kept on wanting to play these party games. And just running into crashes and bugs and dead air and space and alexis speaking could be see and yet.

There are yes. There are two kinds of bugs. One which is the ones that really makes you not enjoy the game right. But then the other kind.

Which is kind of like humorous and funny and if you re sitting around in the group you can laugh at it. But it sounds like this one has the more serious. Many of these have them more serious like this is really not hell. You know yeah not fun and and and it s and it s funny because the problems aren t with the echo.

But and hardware. They are with the software and services and that s encouraging a little bit because it does mean that the software can definitely improve based on the same hardware because it s cloud based all amazon needs to do is improve the performance of these skills. But here. Let s oh yeah let s let s do a bunch of skills.

I want to demo and well while we re doing that just wanted to welcome you if you just joined us where we re tyring out the amazon echo buttons here on facebook. Okay alexa play horse race horse race say alexa help if you want to learn more about the game let me introduce a race commentator. The courageous brian thank you up to four players can play i ll give you a few seconds to press your buttons please press them anytime. This is going to be a good race today welcome red horse okay i m the red horse.

You re the resource down. The blue horse now this is one of the bugs in the skill. Sometimes it just mysteriously goes. Dead.

Now is that a connectivity issue or is that it blanking on the next step. That is please race has two horses you know are loading. This is going to be a good one folks hold onto your hats. The horses take the starting line remember to press your eco button as fast as you can to make your horse run ready set go okay so i m galloping the horse yeah.

But there s also galloping you want to do you can stop pressing your buttons okay. Oh. The results in second place is that the blue horse and the winner by a slim margin is the red horse okay likes my slim margin stop it was fun it mostly worked..

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But there was that weird bit of dead air for like ten seconds. Where you had no idea what was going on and you would assume that it s loaded. I mean. This is a very simple.

There s no voice recognition going into this. It s just loading this dialogue for this i mean. There s it doesn t have to respond weak for a response from you oh no it s cloud based yeah. But okay so let s let s let s do another.

Here. Let s take a question then we ll do another skill are these buttons beer proof. I don t know they look to me to be exactly what you d expect for a 10 button. Yeah.

Just to say that there is a battery cover. Here. That s fairly it s screwed basic screwed on and i mean i know the buttons are not considered to be waterproof yeah. But they are relatively simple electronics.

So if you get them wet. You have a pretty good chance of drying them off and they ll be fine. There isn t like super complicated cell phones in here. Now how far away can i go with this this is bluetooth range.

It s bluetooth so but but so i m told. But if you go more than about five or ten feet away you start to lose taps. It s really. Frustrating.

Which would be a problem with that horse racing game that we just yeah. Because i would ve lost. Let s looks like we have another question well they work with alexa on through a smart phone or smart tv. No so these funds.

I do know that these buttons will only work with an amazon branded echo speaker. Not the amazon tap that is what they will work with right so now we re kind of in the here in early 2018. We are so differentiated among echoed are lots of powered devices that we have the echo buttons they go tap right well this is it. But there s also there s a big world of third party.

Alexa speakers like like the son s. One for instance or the gabe yellow. The inbox eeeh try b. It won t work with those it ll only work with these okay.

Let s let s do a different game hang. All right alexa play trivial pursuit tap. Welcome back. I have saved the progress from your last game.

Would you like to continue that game no start over sorry. I didn t get that say he has to resume your game or no to start a new one no how many players do you have to everyone playing should grab an echo button. Now i need to register them one at a time tap a button until it lights up then repeat for the rest that looks like everybody do you need to hear the rules for how to play no are you sure you want to play against player. One.

I think they cheat remember to wait for the buzzing sounds. We re. Giving your answer. The first category is food at film from sports and hobbies.

Which actress plays jenna. Who bakes unique pies and dreams of a better life in the 2007 movie waitress adrian shelley. So it looks like it was about to do something. There.

Yeah. And then you you buzzed into answer well i buzzed in to try to answer and now. I m trying try to give the answer and then it kind of dies and gets confused right and this is my experience with a lot of these echo button skills and we have yeah so we have your bundle and now they ve been activated and now we re work we may be frozen..

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Yeah and then so and this is my experience so a lot of these skills they just crash in the middle of the skill. And let s be let s been here clear here we ve tested this that we ve isolated issues. It s not wi fi issue. We re pretty this is really just a services.

Yeah. This is just that the service is buggy alexa stop. And we have a long way to go as for our pursuit of yeah. Here exactly exactly and so you get so this is one of the situations.

And notice it did reset the buttons yes. I told you stop this is one of those situations where on paper. It says it does all these things. But it turns out that the things just aren t programmed that well yet now let s take some more questions about these echo buttons someone asks if you think it would be a good nightlight okay so this is one of my other frustrations about the echo buttons.

There are a lot of cool potential ways to use the echo buttons that aren t being implemented for instance. I think it would make a great nightlight. I would love to be able to tell exa you know turn eco button number one blue and or turn eco button number one blue for three hours and have it be a nightlight for three hours in my daughter s room. You can t do that now gil is not available to follow questions that one is how what s the battery life on this they don t really say if they don t really say.

But yeah. And i haven t been able to make them turn on continuously for a long time. So i haven t been able to test it yet right and then the other thing. But they re leds.

So they re really looking so they presumably last a long time. Without yeah. Yeah. But the question is is how long have i mean how long has amazon given developers access to this yeah.

It s only been a month. And that s the thing and that s the thing so yeah so tonight light. I think that would be really cool another skill. I think would be cooled that does not exist.

Is is using the buttons as visual. Timers or visual alerts. And this also comes from i. Am a dad.

And i remember. When i had a baby. There are situations where you the baby is asleep. And you do not want to bug.

The baby okay. It s very important to not move or bother the baby because the baby could go off at any time. And so you might want to set your timers. With your alexa and then have the timer s flash.

A light as opposed to announcing them similar to this ring here on exactly exactly that s something that could in theory happen at the eka buttons. It doesn t there s no skill available. So once again like the the technology. And the idea and the hardware of oh.

This pressable light bluetooth. To my echo is a good idea. But the software isn t there. So developers please get working on this we would love to do this again.

And have all these skills. A exists mm hmm be actually work we ve got 14. Now we you know without of how many thousands of skills are there told there are more than 26000. Alexa skills right there there s a huge opportunity for growth there yeah with really with anything i mean not just the echo buttons.

Who knows amazon could introduce yet another new echo. Yes. Sir yeah soon so there is a lot of software changes to be made it looks like we have some more questions to clarify you can t plug it in to charge..

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It s just batteries that you know it uses to triple a batteries and it does come with the batteries. It is not know you could use rechargeable triple a batteries you know like we do with our mic packs. Here at pc. Mag right and and i think that i m gonna go out on a limb here.

But i m assuming that this screw is is to stop you the batteries from coming out. If you drop. It or you know you re exactly these are pretty rough and tumble devices. Like you can you can kick them around you can give them to your five year old you know whatever so because once again they re relatively simple and they re based on relatively basic technology.

Now something that no one has asked how to remove they have we missed it can you use this as a button. You know use a button with echo can you use a button no buttons are hardwired to order specific products. Okay and you cannot use this as a button that s another skill that you can t have so. Like you like that would be another great idea.

Another great idea would be to you know set this as the toilet paper button. When you re not playing games. That is another skill that is not available once again. I m frustrated by the lack of saw so air for this hardware.

So basically you could have up to four of these things in your house that really are only useful at this time for playing 12 games 12 games rivia and yeah. And what we should mention too is when you look at the four of you at pc marcom. We have a list of all 12 games yeah. Plus 2x additional ones the dollar.

What are the edition ones christmas one of them plays christmas music and turns of buttons colors here i ll show you no freedom. Though i haven t i haven t activated it let s take a question then i ll try to play the christmas music. So is this for anyone like it like should you anyone buy this i don t think quite yet that s the thing like i don t think the i don t think. The software is there for people to buy this yet.

I think. It s something to keep an eye on and to keep an eye on as the software gets better maybe three or six months from now. The bugs will have been worked out there will be more skills available. There will be cooler skills available.

It s a good idea it s decent hardware it needs those skills and you know as a dad you should tell me if i m wrong. But it seems like you know as a toy. The one thing. The kids will be frustrated with is having to wait for it to tell them the next thing.

So yeah probably not great as a toy for kids. Either. That game is a lot more kids. Oh yeah.

Let me see let me see. If it ll do the christmas music. Thing. I haven t actually activated the skill alexa open christmas buttons.

No i haven t activated the skill. I need to okay so that and that again like any other skill you would just use your average. Yeah yeah use it use the app to activate. I ve tried to what s funny as i ve tried to activate the skills by voice and it doesn t work i ve used the app.

Yeah. But yeah so as a result of all these things we ve given the amazon echo buttons a two star rating. Which is fairly rare for devices that we see interview here yeah so for something to in so. I ve been i ve been a pc mag for 14 14.

Years something like that basically for something to get a rating below two stars. It has to be actually broken basically. It has to not do the basic thing. It s asked for and i m giving this two stars because some of the games work and because i have faith in the hardware.

I like the hardware. I like the price i like the button. I have hope right..

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But but i wouldn t recommend that people buy it now and the thing is the hardware is easy like this is this is made in china. This is not hard to do it doesn t got to be 33 cents. Worth of hardware right the genius here and is comes in the programming and and and with developers and amazon creating something that people actually want one to use they ve done that with the echo and another voice assistant you know capable speakers. But now they have to do it with xs right so if you re an echo skills.

Developer definitely look at the api for these things see if you can make them do something cool it looks like we have another question so if their bluetooth compatible can you hack them. I don t know uh you might be able to depend on your skills. I mean. There is it s unclear but with these specific things i know that amazon has been very open to developers in general giving them the blueprints for the speaker setup.

Before the echo like that so it s possible that they might even if they haven t done that they might be okay with you yeah is there a tiny bluetooth chipset in here absolutely are there multicolored leds in here absolutely could you do the same thing with an arduino and a couple of leds. Absolutely well now that brings up the question. Though is i wonder do you know if there if amazon is still selling sell selling that developer version of the button they created a developer only version of button which was completely blank. It wasn t programmed to order anything specific and amazon basically encouraged anyone who was wasn t in the developer program to do whatever they wanted with it and they were huge demand for this about two years ago a year and a half ago and i don t think that they sell them anymore.

But you know hey can we do one other goofball spill that i know works yes okay and once again so ok so this so you re so we re gonna ask what s wrong with this skill before i show it to you this skill is a game of three card monte. However three card monte works best. When there are at least three devices. And it only comes in packs of two so it s kinda lame with two but i m gonna show you anyway right yeah so you want to spend 40 on the amazon alexa play button monty.

Oh i love this game. We ll need two players for this we ll call one to watcher and together the trickster before we start trickster. How many buttons do you want to use great now. Please press.

Each of those two buttons and turn got him moving on watcher keep an eye on the red button tricksters shuffle the buttons around watching what s the one you speak with the red button good luck. It s much better with three kinda lame with two so now i press. I think assume that chi ching was correct yes. Except now the skill is crashing and not telling you what the result is and that s the amazon echo.

Can you make alexa talk faster. No and i really wish you could one of my other complaints about these devices is that alexa doesn t have the vocal urgency for giving you excitement in a game. And the thing is even if it didn t have the vocal urgency. Which is us it would be helpful if at least could carry you through the entire process.

Which as you ve seen here two out of the three times. We ve tried it it doesn t do that that s one of the things i really liked about the google home built in trivia. Thing is that it was also slow and you can t speed that up either. But at least.

It worked and you could laugh at the ridiculousness of you know some of it so and now i would like to point out. I was playing a game of button monte to make sure it worked before this show and the skill worked all the way through and told me. Which one was right and which one was wrong the unreliability itself is unreliable yep. So basically buy these for 19 maybe buy two.

But don t expect a lot don t expect a lot keep an eye out. Though see where they are in three to six months. They might have worked out the software problems at that point of cool for party games. And definitely check our review.

We may or may we hope philippe de tit. If we get another list of more more skills. So this has been the are we good on questions by the way out there okay we re good so these are the echo buttons. They are available for 19 of you can buy up to two packs for use with only your amazon echo device.

Not a third party alexa capable thing and for some of the bugs that have are in there. We gave it a two stars. But you know who knows the 19. You might as well try.

We will be back tomorrow with yet another one cool thing from pc. Mag labs. And we would like to thank you very much ” ..

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